Defrauding her employer of more than $450,000 to buy sports cars and pursue a lavish lifestyle has led to 20 months in jail for a P.E.I. woman.
“The sole motivating factor, I find, is pure greed,” said Chief Judge Jeff Lantz on April 28 in the matter of Tammy Renee Hunt.
Hunt previously pleaded guilty in provincial court in Charlottetown to fraud over $5,000. The total amount she defrauded her (now) former employer – Birt & MacKay Backhoe Services Ltd. in Charlottetown – was $456,521.21. Hunt, 45, did not have a prior criminal record.
Hunt’s employment with the company began on Oct. 7, 2019, as an office worker, said Crown attorney Jeff MacDonald. In that role, she maintained financial records and had full access to the company’s bank accounts and was authorized to make payments by cheques and e-transfers.
The fraud included Hunt making 42 e-transfers totalling $90,398 from the company’s account to her personal bank account between April 1, 2020, and Aug. 5, 2021. She also used company money to pay for a new patio deck, siding and a hot tub at her Oyster Bed Bridge home, and to cover items purchased on her credit card. Of the total amount defrauded, $194,155 was used by Hunt for the 14 credit card payments. Company money was also used to buy a 2020 Toyota Supra from a dealership in Amherst, N.S., for $72,500. That vehicle was later sold by Hunt to a car dealership in Toronto. The company did approve $45,694 to Hunt in May 2020 so she could purchase a Chevrolet Camaro and take advantage of a discount. Hunt was required to repay the money for the sports car. Instead, it was discovered that she merely transferred money between company accounts to make it look like the money was repaid. It was also learned through an outside bookkeeper hired to train staff and prepare the company’s tax returns that bank reconciliations had not been done since September 2019, said MacDonald.
The company reported the fraud to police on Aug. 17, 2021. Hunt was arrested on Feb.3, 2022. She was fired from the company. It was noted that while Hunt was released from custody as the fraud charge proceeded in court, she worked for another company, but that employment ended prior to sentencing.
A pre-sentence report discussing Hunt’s personal circumstances was prepared to assist the court. MacDonald said the report could largely be summed up by a comment stating that “you never know when Tammy was telling the truth.” That comment was made by Hunt’s mother, said MacDonald.
‘Massive breach of trust’
MacDonald described the fraud as a “massive breach of trust,” and added that the fraud was motivated by greed and Hunt’s “pursuit of a more lavish lifestyle” beyond her financial means.
MacDonald requested a jail sentence of two years less a day whereas Hunt’s lawyer, Chris van Ouwerkerk, sought a conditional sentence or house arrest.
In support of house arrest, van Ouwerkerk told the court that Hunt is dealing with physical and mental health issues. She also experienced childhood trauma that has not been addressed.
Van Ouwerkerk pointed out that Hunt wasn’t an accountant but was still tasked with financial duties beyond what her qualifications and pay justified. She had been hired by the company to replace another employee who is currently before the courts facing a similar allegation.
Motivating factors common to fraud matters, such as substance abuse and gambling, were not identified in Hunt’s pre-sentence report.
And van Ouwerkerk disagreed that greed was the sole motivating factor. Greed eventually did play a role as the fraud escalated. But initially, Hunt was motivated by “class envy” and her $16 per hour wage that left her living paycheque to paycheque and in near poverty, van Ouwerkerk said.
Lantz said that given the serious circumstances, a conditional sentence wasn’t appropriate to address deterrence, denounce the offence or keep the community safe.
“Something this substantial requires a substantial sentence, which is in this case, jail,” explained Lantz.
Hunt was not required to pay $456,521.21 in restitution to the company since the amount had already been paid back through a civil action and settlement. Repaying the amount involved selling assets, such as the house and the Chevrolet Camaro.
In addition to the 20-month jail term, Hunt was sentenced to three years of probation.
This article was originally sourced from www.SaltWire.com